Saturday, October 29, 2011

Occupy Albany meets winter weather


Well, here's citizen Langdon at an Occupy Albany demonstration on October 15, disguised in  coat and tie to fool the cops and media.  I told the crowd that they didn't need advice from anyone about their goals, messages and actions.  But I did take note of an important fact, namely that winter is coming on that the temptation would be to say "It's too cold and wet to get out to marches and meetings." 

So I offered a story about the year my family and I spent in Norway some years back. 

We noticed that the Norwegians were always outside, regardless of weather conditions.  They walk, they skii, they picnic, and do whatever comes to mind, all year round, including the dead of winter.  Even small children frolic in outdoor neighborhood "barna" parks, the year round including the wet, freezing winter!  After a time I asked some friends in Oslo how such flagrant disregard for rain, snow, sleet, and bitter cold was possible.  They explained that there were historical reasons for this ways of life (too complicated to summarize here) and then shared a favorite Norwegian saying:  
There is no such thing as bad weather, only bad clothing!

Since that time I've made it a practice to get outdoors more often.  Just wear a good warm coat and hat,  buy boots that keep one's feet dry, and take sensible steps necessary to meet Mother Nature on friendly terms.  This is good advice for political activists as well.  Don't yield to stupid excuses about why you can't stay involved during the winter months.
     
       
         

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Media meets Occupy Wall Street -- Chris Hedges makes CBC's Kevin O'Leary look stupid


Having spent a little time around the corporate media, I can understand how someone like Kevin O'Leary has a job at all and why he's so puzzled about Occupy Wall Street.  His encounter with Chris Hedges shows an unquestioned worldview under severe stress, totally unable to fathom or respond to the most basic criticisms about the U.S. economic system.  In his confusion, O'Leary resorts to name calling, a bad mistake.

CBC memo to file:  Don't mess with Chris. 

                                     

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Instant-runoff voting -- watch Portland, Maine

The system known as Instant-runoff voting, preferential voting or ranked choice voting is a sensible elections reform and is steadily spreading throughout the country.  Basically, the idea is that a voter selects her first choice among candidates and also indicates a second and third choice as well.  An article in the Economist recently described the process of counting ballots:

"...voters select three candidates: first-choice, second and third. If any candidate gets a majority of first-choice votes, he wins, as in any other election. But if nobody gets a majority, the candidate who won the fewest first-choice votes is eliminated, and his supporters’ second choices are added to the counts of the other candidates. If there is still no majority winner, another candidate is eliminated, and his ballots are recounted. And so on, until somebody passes 50%."

This system is used around the world in various places, including Ireland, Australia, London, and in the mayor's race in San Francisco.  Sometimes the results are rather surprising.  Candidates who were not among the leading contenders in pre-election speculation and polling have emerged victorious because they pleased a good number of voters as second or third choice.  This is something that could be favorable to progressive candidates trying to challenge the death grip that our worn out, brain dead, and generally feckless Republican and Democratic parties have in the U.S.

An interesting case of this kind seems to be taking shape in the race for Mayor in Portland, Maine.  An interesting alternative candidate, David Marshall, artist and civic activist, very green by reputation, has risen to prominence among a long list of candidates, including conventional mainstay Democratic Party standard bearers.  Here's a slice of Marshall's web page:

For the past five years, I have served you as a City Councilor. My hard work has led to the growth of our creative economy, substantial energy savings, and zoning reforms to increase housing and support our businesses.
Now it is time to bring Portland to the next level. I'm running for Mayor because I love Portland. I possess the vision and experience to  lead Portland further into the 21st Century. Please check out my accomplishments as a Portland City Councilor and my platform to strengthen our economy.  ....
As your Mayor I will 
Invest in our school buildings to make them state-of-the-art learning facilities to prepare our children for the future. 
Grow our population to spread out the tax burden by creating housing near the downtown and in business corridors to attract new families and local businesses. 
Convert our homes and businesses from oil to cleaner fuels to improve our air and save us money. 
Stimulate economic development by investing in a modern streetcar line to grow our tax base. 
Institute a 24-hour pothole guarantee through a professional management program that will make City Hall user-friendly and accountable.

While I'm not a resident of Portland, this is certainly a pitch that would win my vote, especially that  pothole initiative!  During one of Portland's evening "Art Walks" recently, I ran into David outside his studio and asked about his chances, especially in the Instant-runoff system.
"I think our chances are very good," he replied.  "We have good volunteers going door-to-door and a lot of people are interested in voting for me as either first or second choice.  I like to say: "We're Number 1 in the Number 2 business!"


Go David!  


[Note:  One of my sons works for the David Marshall campaign.]
                     
                   
                

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Republican Tea Party science lab discovered


While the Republican Tea Party people seem to have closed the door on science and reason --  rejecting evolution, global warming and the environmental sciences as "just theories that are out there" -- they seem have a special laboratory, stocked with very smart people, brewing up toxic mixtures to poison the American political debate.

[Alas, I could not find the name of the cartoonist who did this one.]
   
                                   
                                             
                         

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Cops meet Occupy Phoenix demonstrators


Dressed as storm troopers, police in Phoenix confront a gathering of the Occupy Phoenix group.  Perhaps  they were asking if they could join the General Assembly, experience the joys of decision-making by democratic consensus and help amplify the people's mike. 

Actually, there were 49 people arrested last Saturday's protests.  In these times of budget cutting an deficit worries there is still money to fund overtime pay for cops along with a hovering helicopter to suppress "the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances" as specified in first amendment of The Bill of Rights. 
         

Monday, October 17, 2011

Los indignados occupy buildings as "hotels" for evicted people

                                                 Emmanuel Dare, 36, affected by eviction

It's a long story, but in Spain the occupations came long before the recent mass demonstrations.  Today,  following the protests last week, los indignados in Madrid and Barcelona have resumed occupying buildings as "hotels" for evicted people.  In the words of Isaachacksimov: the hotels are "200 stars, free and include controversy."

Here's a rough translation of an excerpt from El Pais.

Two occupied buildings,one in Madrid and another in Barcelona, ​​remain as a legacy of the great mobilization that took to the streets Saturday to tens of thousands of people brought together by the 15 of May movement.   Near the Puerta del Sol, in a old hotel, the indignants yesterday debated how to use the building: assembly-space, shelter, hospice, home of Cuban dissidents camped outside the Foreign Ministry or simply as a social center. Or all at once. .... 
For hours the issue was addressed in assembly. "It should be clear that the occupation is temporary," one speaker, a member of the 15-M, said with a megaphone. The veteran "indignado" explained that  the first 48 hours of an occupation  are the most important, because that's when the police can carry out an eviction without court approval.
   * * * * * * * * 
As I post this, the police have arrived at "Hotel Madrid" in an attempt to remove those who've occupyied the place. From the standpoint of "los indignados," confrontations of this kind are useful to the influence of the larger movement, revealing the injustices of the current social, economic and political system. 
For those curious, here's a recent picture of Isaachacksimov.
                                       

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Statement of the general assembly of Occupy Wall Street in Zuccotti Park


The puzzlement in the mainstream media about the objectives of Occupy Wall Street and other "Occupy" demonstrations reflects a lack of attention, a perhaps, an unwillingness to leave behind the hollow frames of reference that dominate contemporary politics.  On October 7, the general assembly of Occupy Wall Street came to agreement on the proclamation below.  Keith Olbermann read it on his "Countdown" program and Thom Hartmann transcribed it for his web page.  In both style and content, it is reminiscent of another distinctly American document:  The Declaration of Independence.


Statement of the general assembly of Occupy Wall Street in Zuccotti Park:

As we gather together in solidarity to express a feeling of mass injustice we must not lose sight of what brought us together. We write so that all people who feel wronged by the corporate forces of the world can know that we are your allies. As one people, united, we acknowledge the reality that the future of the human race requires the cooperation of its members. That our system must protect our rights, and upon corruption of that system, it is up to the individuals to protect their own rights, and those of their neighbors. That a democratic government derives its just power from the people, but corporations do not seek consent to extract wealth from the people, and the Earth, and that no true democracy is attainable when the process is determined by economic power.
We come to you at a time when corporations -- which place profit over people, self-interest over justice, and oppression over equality -- run our governments. We have peaceably assembled here as is our right to let these facts be known.
They have taken our houses through an illegal foreclosure process, despite not having the original mortgage.
They have taken bailouts from taxpayers with impunity, and continue to give executives exorbitant bonuses.
They have perpetuated inequality and discrimination in workplaces based on age, the color of one's skin, sex, gender identity, and sexual orientation.
They have poisoned the food supply through negligence, and undermined the farming system through monopolization.
They have profited off the torture, confinement, and cruel treatment of countless animals, and actively hide these practices.
They have continuously sought to strip employees of the right to negotiate for better pay and safer working conditions.
They have held students hostage with tens of thousands of dollars of debt on education, which is, itself, a human right.
They have consistently outsourced labor and used that outsourcing as leverage to cut worker's health care and pay.
They have influenced the courts to achieve the same rights as people with none of the culpability or responsibility.
They have spent millions of dollars on legal teams, but look for ways to get them out of contracts in regards to health insurance.
They have sold our privacy as a commodity.
They have used the military and police force to prevent freedom of the press.
They have deliberately declined to recall faulty products, endangering lives in pursuit of profit.
They determine economic policy despite the catastrophic failures their policies have produced and continue to produce.
They have donated large sums of money to politicians, who are responsible for regulating them.
They continue to block alternate forms of energy to keep us dependent on oil.
They continue to block generic forms of medicine that could save people's lives, or provide relief in order to protect investments that have
already turned a substantial profit.
They have purposely covered up oil spills, accidents, faulty bookkeeping, and inactive ingredients in pursuit of profit.
They purposefully kept people misinformed and fearful through their control of the media.
They have accepted private contracts to murder prisoners, even when presented with serious doubts about their guilt.
They have perpetuated colonialism at home and abroad.
They have participated in the torture and murder of innocent civilians overseas.
They continue to create weapons of mass destruction in order to receive government contracts.
To the people of the world,
We, the New York City general assembly occupying Wall Street in Liberty Square, urge you to assert your power.

Exercise your right to peaceably assemble, occupy public space, create a process to address the problems we face, and generate solutions accessible to everyone.
To all communities that take action and form groups in the spirit of direct democracy, we offer support, documentation, and all of the resources at our disposal.
Join us and make your voices heard.

            
                       
            



Friday, October 14, 2011

My favorite story from Occupy Wall Street


The mainstream press and the undercover cops know there just has to be "a leader" for the Occupy Wall Street and other Occupy protests.  The best story I've read about this comes from an essay by Chris Hedges, "Why Corporate Elites Should Be Petrified by Occupy Wall Street." The story is told by Ketchup, a twenty-two year old woman from Chicago who's active in the Zuccotti Park demonstrations.

“The undercover cops are the only ones who ask, ‘Who’s the leader?’ ” she said. “Presumably, if they know who our leaders are they can take them out. The fact is we have no leader. There’s no leader, so there’s nothing they can do.

“There was a woman [in the medics unit]. This guy was pretending to be a reporter. The first question he asks is, ‘Who’s the leader?’ She goes, ‘I’m the leader.’ And he says, ‘Oh yeah, what are you in charge of?’ She says, ‘I’m in a charge of everything.’ He says, ‘Oh yeah? What’s your title?’ She says ‘God.’ ”
  
   
      

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

More of my comments on Occupy Wall Street


A newspaper interviewer from Brazil, Thiago Carrapatoso, sent me a list of questions about the Occupy Wall Street movement.  The story with some quotes eventually appeared in Portuguese.  For those curious about my observations, here is the interview in full.

1) The manifestation [demonstration] was organized firstly by two groups: AdBusters and
  Anonymous. Several other ones entered the fight, but the importance of both
  is evident. What this context can say about the manifestation as a whole? Is
  it the same traditional way of organizing manifestations? The general
  question is because Anonymous is a hacker group and is known for defending
  questions about digital policies. But, now, they are handling with hundreds
  of people sleeping in the streets. You can't go more physically (against
  digital or virtual) than that.

LW: The interesting dynamics are those that connect activities in the digital realm with that out in the world of face-to-face social life and politics.  In and of itself, cyberspace is a hollow, sterile realm, one often characterized by narcissistic forms of expression and non-stop, alienated complaining .  The events of the Arab Spring, the demonstration in Spain recently and now Occupy Wall Street show the positive energies produced when online and geographically situated activities interact, combine and expand.  

  2) The social media had an enormous impact at the calling for people join
  the manifestation. Again, what this can say about the whole manifestation?
  Is it provoking a new type of protesters? I ask that because it would be
  extremely hard to gather so many people for a manifestation with so many
  causes using the traditional media. Social media made possible to hear this
  kind of calling. How this context influences in the manifestation? (They are
  even streaming the occupation!)

LW:  The protests are increasingly widespread, spreading to numerous cities and towns.  It appears that their social make up is strikingly diverse.  What is now called “Occupy Together” is open to anyone who cares about the future and has something to contribute to the debate.  While social media make it easier to attract and assemble large groups, there are far more important sources for the energies we see here.  

The first decade of the 21st century has been a crash course in how institutions fail.  The federal government, our political parties, our political leaders, the whole financial sector, and the Pentagon have shown home completely disconnected they are from the well-being of everyday people.  A great many people have lost jobs, been evicted from their homes, watched their incomes decline, seen their pensions evaporate, and noticed the rapid accumulation of wealth at the very top 1% of society.  The simple, attractive message of the occupation is that the other 99%  are now demanding to be heard.
 
3) One of the differences of this manifestation and the others is the
  hierarchy of the organizers. They created work groups and made an Assembly
  to decide important issues. Each work group can decide alone and have some
  independency from the assembly, ensuring that everything can work fine. How
  this decentralized organization can say about the manifestation? Is it
  something from contemporary culture to think in structures without a leader?

LW:  Historically speaking, it is not unusual for decentralized political processes to spring up during times of economic crisis and social upheaval.  Modern revolutions have often included a period in which workers councils, neighborhood assemblies and similar informal structures were organized to debate the issues at hand and to seek consensus about what to do.  In Madrid last June I walked through several plazas at 10:00 at night and saw circles of twenty to fifty people engaged in intensive discussion about the next steps for “los indignados.”  Something very similar is happening in the general assemblies of Occupy Wall Street at present.  Eventually some particular “leaders” may emerge.  But for the time being there is really no need for them.  As long as the demonstrations and assemblies remain non-violent and open to the idea of  “we the people,” I expect both process and organization to develop in agreeable semi-structured ways. 

  4) The lack of a definitive goal of the manifestation is something
  interested to analyze and try to understand. At the same time they doesn't
  have one specific, they have several. What do you think about that?

LW:   It is perhaps the greatest strength of this movement that it did not begin with a fixed, rigid set of goals.  For one thing, it drives the mass media crazy because it cannot pigeonhole the events or pin the story on a particular set of “celebrities.”  While there is a strong consensus that Wall Street has totally wrecked the U.S. economy and that something must be done to repair the damage, the specific grievances, goals, and proposals are extremely numerous.  How those demands are defined, weighted and communicated is something that will evolve over time.

To cite just one example, today’s young people face horrible conditions of unemployment.  This situation is all the worse because it contradicts what they had always been promised – “The American Dream.”  The amount of student debt from loans received to pay for higher education now exceeds the total debt on credit card accounts.  It’s almost $1 trillion!  Students leave their universities with tens, even hundreds of thousands of dollars of debt and find that there are no jobs waiting for them.  Are they a ticking time bomb?  You betcha!

It is important to realize that the open protests we see today were postponed for several years because the tens of millions of people who voted for Barack Obama believed that his leadership could solve the terrible problems we face.  Now it is perfectly clear that Obama is just another politician, someone regarded as  unwilling or unable to address the painful economic and political crises that Americans experience every day.  Obama and the other Washington, D.C. elites have missed their moment to act.  They’ve proven their irrelevance.  For very good reasons, people have decided to take democracy into their own hands. 

It’s worth noting that  social uprisings in America do not always announce particular goals, at least not at first.  For example, in  the 1950s there were films, “Rebel Without a Cause,” for example, that portrayed the restlessness of youth with no particular agenda. The best moment came in the middle of the “The Wild One.”  During a wild party, a woman asks the young man (played by Marlon Brando), “Hey, Johnny, what are you rebelling against?”  Brando answers, “What ‘d ya got?”

Later, of course, during the 1960s the rebels took up a number of causes  -- Civil Rights, the movement against the Vietnam War, women's rights, gay rights, and others.
 
  5) And sorry to ask a more technical question, but how it works the laws
  here in NYC about manifestations like OccupyWallStreet? Is it legal to camp
  in the middle of a public space?

LW: I don’t know much about this.  Towns and cities have different ordinances and regulations about public gatherings.  I’ve heard that tents are forbidden at Liberty Square, but it seems to be OK to bring a sleeping bag.  The most important development at present is that some members of the NYPD have interpreted their authority in arbitrary ways, involve clubbing demonstrators, spraying them with mace and arresting them on a whim.  Such misbehavior has had a boomerang effect, building support for the gatherings and marches.  People are outraged watching YouTube clips of young women screaming as they’re sprayed with pepper gas. 
 
  6) The movement is now in several cities of the country. What do you think
  is the importance of these occupations in a more wide context? It will
  change the way people manifestate? -demonstrate] What changes we can expect after this?

LW:  The typical mode for American demonstrations is to go to a place for a day, carry a sign, make a statement, have a good time, and then go home.  What’s promising about the models of Occupy Wall Street, Tahrir Square in Cairo, the acamapadas in numerous plazas in Spain, is that they ask people to go to a park or plaza and stay there until genuine reforms begin.  There are precedents for this in the U.S. – the Bonus Army of  U.S. soldiers launched in 1932 and Martin Luther King’s Poor Peoples Campaign planned for 1968, just as Dr. King was assassinated.  Both of these movements were meant to be long term encampments, rather than one day media spectacles.  The Bonus army was eventually routed by the U.S. Army, but its presence contributed to the formation of The New Deal.  The Poor Peoples Campaign could not survive the death of its leader.

Right now there are numerous occupations underway in hundred s of places around the county.  The crucial question is whether or not Americans are willing to show up repeatedly for these encampments and to endure personal discomfort, social scorn and police harassment.  My feeling is that a great many people are angry enough, desperate enough to take a stand.  I’m hopeful about the prospects.

  7) In your text, [earlier blog post] you say about the plazas in Spain, which have general
  assemblies as well. It remembered me the concept of the greek "√°goras",
  where the political decisions were made in the public space, with everyone
  interested about that subjects. Do you think the model of direct democracy
  adopted by the occupation is similar with that concept?

Yes, the model is entirely similar.  A notorious problem in representative democracy is that it excludes direct participation of citizens.  Today, a great many people hunger for forms of citizenship that go beyond obeying paying taxes and voting every four years.  Since our elected leaders have been unmasked as brain-dead, subservient agents of corporatocracy, the populace is ready to “throw the rascals out!” 

It is too early to tell if this ferment will move society toward  greater justice, equality and public engagement.   Alas, one possible outcome is a virulent fascist backlash, something that often happens when economies crash, as happened in Europe during the 1930s.   In the U.S.A. at present it’s a toss- up whether Occupy Wall Street direct democracy or Tea Party fascism will prevail.  These are extremely dangerous times.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

We Are the 99 Percent


An extraordinary site for direct, personal comments and photos about America's predicament is We Are the 99 Percent.   The stories are diverse in content, enough to make you cry.

Wednesday, October 05, 2011

Best Occupy Wall Street photo so far


I believe this will go down in history as a classic photo from the ongoing Occupy Wall Street demonstrations.  It reminds me of some of the pictures that galvanized public opinion during the Vietnam War period.

My source for the photo is here.

Tuesday, October 04, 2011

From Puerta del Sol to Occupy Wall Street -- a movement spreads

                                  One of the 99% at Liberty Square, NY City, October 1, 2011

The rapidly changing situations at the Occupy Wall Street and other Occupy sites around the country have some interesting similarities not only to the widespread upheavals of the Arab Spring (and summer, fall...) but also to continuing mass protests in Spain which began at Puerta del Sol on May 15.  I have no special grasp of the direction or significance of these unfolding events.  But here are some scattered observations from my visit to Liberty Square in New York last Saturday and from recent readings and conversations.

1.  The perception that 99% of the USA is victimized by the wealthy 1% is growing throughout the country, topic of widespread discussion in the press and on the Internet.  Hence, the name the New York demonstrators have chosen -- “the 99%” – is appropriate and resonant.

2.  The corporate news media is upset, reduced to babbling incoherence, when faced with the mystery of  “Who are they?” and “What do they want”?  Evidently, citizens gathering together to bear  witness to an obviously dysfunctional economic and political system is not sufficient to merit coverage and comment.

3.  As in Spain, there are “General Assemblies” in the plazas of the Occupy gatherings.   Demands and proposals evolve from these ongoing discussions.  Because the processes of debate, deliberation, and decision-making are “horizontal” rather than top/down “vertical”, mainstream journalists and pundits simply cannot understand how agreements arise.  These seem similar to the circles of debate I saw in Madrid last June, ones still going strong well past 11:00 pm in some neighborhoods.  This is the reinvention of public space.
4.  Celebrities are flocking to the sites of protest, Michael Moore and Cornell West, for example, but are by no means the “leaders” the media hopes to identify.  As in Spain, there are people who take on specific commitments – the “legal team,” “media team,” etc.  But this is deliberately not a step toward the selection  or even self-selection of “leaders.”

5.  The police ban on electronic amplification has actually played to the advantage of the protestors because they have invented the “The People’s Microphone”  in which people loudly repeat the words of the speaker so they can be heard on the periphery.

6.  Protests are spreading and their size seems to be growing.  This coming Wednesday is Occupy Colleges day in the U.S.  Students will walk out of classes and off campus.  Here’s a report from my alma mater, U.C. Berkeley, in The Daily Californian:
Occupy Colleges — a movement that stemmed from Occupy Wall Street — is calling for a national campus walkout Wednesday at 12 p.m. to protest rising college debt and a lack of jobs for graduate
“Do not go to school. Go fight for yours and everybody else’s rights at Occupy Wall Street, Occupy Los Angeles or your nearest Occupation. The time is now to join our fellow %99!” stated Occupy College on its Facebook page.

7.  As I noted in an earlier post, it seems as if the protests have begun use novel forms of software, e.g., Vibe instead of Twitter.   Net video sites also present live streams and video archives of events.  To some extent this makes up for the media blackout of Occupy events.  If software, online communication and face-to-face gatherings achieve synergy -- watch out!

8.  Gatherings and demonstrations in this genre are self-policing, effectively so far. .  For example, people who gather in Liberty Square in New York to avoid possession or use of alcohol and drugs in the park.

9.  The press and a scornful public decry the presence of “smelly hippies” and unsightly places where then sit, lie down and sleep.  This is a self-fulfilling prophecy, however.  The police have banned tents, camping equipment and other facilities that would otherwise keep protest sites clean and neat. And from what I saw, Liberty Square volunteer janitors are doing a good job.
 
10.  As in Spain and the “No les votes” (Don’t vote for them) campaign, Elections and “one’s vote” now seem much less important than previously.  The 99% recognized that the political parties, the ruling elites and political leaders (including Obama) no longer understand their needs and do not even begin to represent them.   They express a common question:  Are these the best leaders our nation can produce?  Much like the “indignados,” the Occupy Wall Street and similar strands of the movement will probably continue voting, but will look for new ways of participating and applying pressure.

11.  While no one is talking about the movement in exactly these terms yet, actions of this may carry some of the pungent force of Vietnam War protests.  “What are we doing?  We’re raising the costs of your goddam war.”  In this case:  “We are raising the costs of the economic devastation our ‘leaders’ have caused.”

12.  As in Europe, creating an economy in which there are millions of young people unemployed with no jobs in sight is a formula for social unrest.   My placard for Liberty Square might read: 

America take notice – We’ve Got a LOT of Time on Our Hands!

           
                

Monday, October 03, 2011

Are OccupyWallStreet protests using their own software?


One of the features of the May 15 movement in Spain that's attracted my attention is the use of software and communications that the demonstrators and hacktivists invent on their own.  This is a continuing process that seeks to keep up with new developments and possibilities for action, for example a software program that helps neighborhoods rally to resist housing foreclosures.  The hacktivistas have been busy at such project for months now (even longer, if you study their history).

Now it seems that ideas of this kind are making inroads with people involved in the Occupy Wall Street demonstrations and similar protests around the U.S.A.  The first notable application is an alternative to Twitter.   I haven't had time to study this carefully yet (got to run off to my classes today), but here is the link to a BetaBeat story on the matter.  Excerpt:


For anyone who wasn’t aware, there are a few hundred protesters hanging out downtown in a park plaza two blocks from Wall Street. Despite allegations of Twitter censorship, tweets are collating around the hashtags #occupywallst, #occupywallstreet, #ows and #nycga. So when Betabeat walked past an iPad hooked up to a projector showing short hashtagged messages with the occasional photo, we assumed we were looking at a Twitter client. Turns out that’s not what it is. This app is called Vibe, the “new kid on the social media block,” and it’s something different: a Twitter-esque messaging system built by Hazem Sayed, a professional developer from California who built the app as an anonymous alternative to Twitter, reports the New York Daily News.

Mr. Sayed flew out to the protest after he saw people there were using his app; he’s now earned the nickname ”White Hat” as he wanders Liberty Park Plaza, passing out flyers for Vibe and explaining to people how to use it. Vibe is anonymous, temporal and location-specific–perfect for organizing flash mobs (or protests!) or any event you want restricted to the people in the vicinity.